Google, Yahoo criticize Australian Internet filter

AP and WiG reports

Internet giants Google and Yahoo have criticized Australia’s proposal for a mandatory Internet filter, calling it a heavy-handed measure that could restrict access to legal information.

Their statements, among 174 comments from the public submitted to the Australian Department of Communications on the filtering proposal, come amid a struggle between Google and China over censorship-free content.

Lucinda Barlow of Google Australia called the Internet blocking measures of Australia and China “apples and oranges,” but also said her company was deeply concerned about Australia’s proposal because of its mandatory and sweeping nature.

If adopted into law, the screening system would make Australia one of the strictest Internet regulators among the world’s democracies, and the proposal has put the country on the Reporters Without Borders annual “Enemies of the Internet” list.

Google’s Barlow told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that the proposal raised the possibility of banning politically and socially controversial material and went beyond filters used in Germany and Canada, which block child pornography and, in Italy, gambling sites.

Yahoo made a similar contention, saying the filter would block many sites with controversial content, such as euthanasia discussion forums and gay and lesbian forums that discuss sexual experiences.

“There is enormous value in this content being available to encourage debate and inform opinion,” Yahoo said.